school-age children, recreation ( i.e. Boys and Girls Club) and day camp programs can also provide
needed respite for kinship caregivers. 91
C. Emotional Support for Caregivers
An identified need for kinship families is emotional support for the caregivers. 92 It is
essential to address the mental health needs of the kinship caregiver since the emotional health of
the caregiver has “significant implications for overall family well-being, with potential for direct
and indirect effects on the children in the family.” 93 When suddenly assuming full-time parenting
responsibilities for a relative's child, the kinship caregiver may experience a myriad of emotions,
including sadness, anger, fear, and guilt. 94 Especially if the kinship caregivers are the child’s
grandparents, they may even experience shame about having to raise their grandchildren when the
parent is unable, due to the belief that they have failed to successfully raise their own children. 95
The kinship caregiver may have unexpressed doubts about their ability to provide a stable and
nurturing home for the child placed with them, which could manifest as difficulty being
emotionally attuned with the child. 96
As kinship caregivers assume unanticipated child rearing responsibilities, they may
become distanced from friends, community supports, and faith-based organizations due to limited
time resources. 97 With this loss of support, the kinship caregiver may face isolation or even
depression, making it difficult to care properly for themselves and the child placed in their home. 98
Additionally, kinship caregivers may experience emotional distress, including feelings of sadness
and feelings of hopelessness or helplessness, as they attempt to assist the children placed in their
home to cope with trauma that may have predicated the child’s removal. This may be especially
difficult for kinship caregivers if their relative perpetrated the abuse that resulted in the child being
removed from the parental home. 99 Moreover, even if the kinship caregiver did not have
preexisting difficulty managing stress or anxiety, the abrupt placement of a child or children in
their home creates additional stress which may overwhelm the caregiver's healthy coping
capabilities, resulting in distress. 100
D. Kinship Specific Social Worker Training and Services
The needs of kinship caregivers are distinct from non-relative caregivers for a multitude of
reasons, including the conditions under which the children enter kinship care and the demographics
91 See Mayfield et al., supra note 84, at 30.
92 Kinship Care Resource Kit, CHILD. DEFENSE FUND, https://www.childrensdefense.org/wp-
93 Cheryl Smithgall et al., Unmet Mental Health Service Needs in Kinship Care: The Importance of Assessing and
Supporting Caregivers, 16 J. OF FAM. SOC. WORK 463, 465 (Nov. 2013).
94 Karen J. Foli, Kinship Care: A New Kind of Family, THE PURDUE EXTENSION 1, 3 (2014)
96 Kimberly Bundy-Fazioli et al., Grandparents Caregivers' Perceptions of Emotional Distress and Well-Being, 16 J.
OF FAM. SOC. WORK 447, 448-49 (Nov. 2013).
97 See Kinship Care Resource Kit, supra note 96.